Where the Wild Flowers Grow by Leif Bersweden – Book Review

A botanical journey through Britain and Ireland? Count me in! This collection of essays is informative and entertaining and will delight budding botanists, plant enthusiasts, and naturalists. Bersweden cycles to different areas of biological interest and meets people doing amazing work in research and conservation. Open your eyes to the diversity, intricacies, and wonders of the botanical world while exploring pavements in London, a bluebell wood in Oxfordshire, farmlands in Derry, alpine forget-me-nots on Ben Lawers, and a rainforest in Cork…

Where the Wild Flowers Grow by Leif Bersweden. Image: Colt’s foot, Co. Kerry, Ireland.

Each essay heroes a different plant. Some are rare, like the alpine forget-me-nots who are specialists in the extremes of the highland mountains. But often the focus is on overlooked plants, or rather, plants taken for granted: poppies, meadow buttercups, yellow rattle, and bluebells. There’s so much to learn about these plants when you stop to wonder about them. I love this quote from the book as it resonates with me and why I love plants:

“I love that you can be out anywhere and just stumble upon something that, for you, is a complete surprise and joy then and there in the moment. It’s not like a bird or a mammal that you have to stalk up to. With a plant, the relationship you develop with it is immediate. When it’s just you and the plant, and it’s not going anywhere, you can commune with it in a very meaningful way.”

Bersweden’s love for botany shines through every page and as with the most recent nature writing, Where the Wildflowers Grow highlights the concerns around climate change and environmental issues. The sadness of what we have lost, what we are in the process of losing, is hard to ignore at times. But what I loved is the mindfulness that Bersweden exudes when he’s with a plant; how the moment consumes him in what is clearly an intimate relationship with nature. In those moments other worries and concerns fall away and you are left with beauty and wonder. This is what I have found too, and why I would encourage anyone with just an inkling of curiosity to stop and look closer at the world around them.

I particularly enjoyed the bits of history and folklore woven into the essays. Each essay is well-researched and I learnt a lot. I had no idea, for example, about the value and nature of arable plants… you know, the “weeds” that can be found on farmlands. What’s more, the people sharing their stories and knowledge are fascinating and inspiring but humans are secondary characters in this book where the plants are the true heroes.

Where the Wildflowers Grow is for anyone with an interest in British and Irish flora. It’s accessible to newcomers to botany, like me, and will be an interesting read for naturalists.


Thank you for visiting the Wild Library blog. You might also enjoy The Wild Places by Robert Macfarlane or Adele Brand’s The Hidden World of the Fox

Happy reading,


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